The Severity of Mental Health Effects on Capital Trial Jurors

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Death qualified jurors, selected to serve on capital trials, hold an unparalleled role in the criminal justice system. Despite data suggesting that serving as a death qualified juror may be extremely stressful, studies exploring the severity of the mental health effects of capital jury duty are limited. This study, utilizing a qualitative content analysis, addresses the question of whether the severity of capital jurors’ mental health symptoms rises to clinically significant levels and thus, warrants intervening action by the criminal justice system. Through the analysis of six prior studies, this research examined the mental health effects triggered by excessive stress in capital jurors and identified twelve predominant themes. The prior studies determined that the clinical significance of major depression in capital jurors ranges from 0 to 19%, and the clinical significance of posttraumatic stress disorder ranges from 0 to 26%. Thus, while prior research confirms that capital jurors may experience negative mental health effects, the severity of the effects, as well as the length of time the effects impact each juror, varies to the extent that a definitive conclusion regarding the need for intervening action by the criminal justice system cannot be determined.
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology
Psychology, Criminology, Law, Mental Health